Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A major figure in 20th century French music

There's a full-blown Joseph-Guy Ropartz mini-boom going on in the recording industry, and I couldn't be more pleased. Timpani is leading the way with important chamber music and orchestral discs in the past few years, and this disc of violin and cello sonatas, due to be released on September 9, 2016, continues this stellar work. Violinist Nicolas Dautricourt and pianist Francois Kerdoncuff began the survey of the violin sonatas with number 2 on the previous Timpani disc in 2014, but on this disc numbers 1 and 3 are played by Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian, with Kerdoncuff doing the honours once again. And there's also been a lineup change at cello (I feel like I'm a baseball play-by-play announcer) with Raphael Pidoux playing the 2nd sonata in the first disc, and the excellent Henri Demarquette playing the first sonata in the second disc. Iron Man Kerdoncuff stays at piano throughout. The playing on both discs is first-class, with fine, open, strong string tone from all, and spot-on piano work from Kerdoncuff, both sensitive and robust when required.

The first violin sonata, written in 1910, is in the full-blown Romantic style of Cesar Franck. The music of this period is suffused with the folk music of Ropartz's Brittany homeland. The first cello sonata, from 1904, shares the same style, and I found both to be immensely likeable pieces of music, honestly emotional and making a cogent argument through Franck's cyclic form. The third violin sonata has a completely different sound world, more reserved and emotionally distant, with clarity and serenity replacing romantic tumult. Ropartz's move to Alsace-Lorraine to take over directorship of the Nancy Conservatory had placed him in the midst of the turmoil of the Great War, and this trauma had a huge effect on his life and his music. It's clear that Ropartz is a major figure in 20th century French music, and it's encouraging that new recordings continue to appear.

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